Probationary periods for a new recruit are now commonplace. The use of a Probationary period is at the discretion of the employer in terms of whether to have one and if so, how long the period should be.

The main purpose is to assess performance, and suitability for the role and organisation, in a set timeframe, with the ability to not continue employment if the employer is not satisfied. Additional support can be provided for that period to give the employee every opportunity to achieve the required standard. The process needs careful management if it is to be of value and achieve the desired aim.

If managed correctly, at the end of the period, you will have an employee who is meeting the required standards, feels supported and welcomed into the organisation, and will be a successful recruit.

You must be aware of the Employment Law implications of the use of a probationary period, and manage the process carefully to stay the right side of the Law and achieve a successful result.

Our advice would be to consider:

Contract Implications – it is feasible to “withhold” certain benefits during the probation period but this must be clearly communicated and documented, be nondiscriminatory and be clearly altered at the end of the probation period. The employee is considered an employee under Law from their first day: being in the probation period means they are not protected from unfair dismissal only.

Probation Length – is at the employer’s discretion but must be nondiscriminatory, and suitable for the role. Common time frames are one, three or six months.  It is possible to extend the initial period but retaining the right to do so should be stated at the start of the contract, and extended before the initial period has ended.

Dealing with performance issues during the probation period – there should be regular reviews set up during the period and any performance issues should be addressed promptly and documented. It would be unfair to extend a probation period due to the employer not monitoring performance, giving support and putting an adequate plan in place during the initial period. If performance is a major concern, and cannot be managed during the period, it is possible to terminate before the end of the probationary period.

Discrimination – whilst the employee is not protected by Unfair Dismissal, they are protected by discrimination law. Due process and diligence are required to ensure that Employment Law is met.

Prepare – ensure you have the support structure in place, diarise regular review meetings, and share any policies needed to support the process. This period is the opportunity to set the standard and be clear on expectations, as well as training and supporting your new recruit. The responsible manager should attend the review meetings briefed and prepared to monitor performance and progression, and provide the needed support.

Encourage Communication – ensuring that the probationer feels comfortable asking questions, or seeking clarity, perhaps for a second, or even third time is important. Having an action plan with SMART objectives is one tool that can be used for encouraging such communication and documenting progress between each review meeting.

It can seem a minefield initially, however, once you have the probation period process documented and your managers trained, it can be easily overseen. Documenting discussions, being clear with timescales and expectations and preparation is key.

We can help support you on writing a probationary period contract, setting up templates and a timetable for the review period, and ensuring that the review meetings are managed effectively.

If you would like to know more about how MAD-HR can support you, we would love to have a chat. You can either arrange a free one-hour consultation or call us for a chat about how we can support you on 01473 360160.